Q: Can President Donald Trump declare martial law while alleging election fraud and rigged elections?
-CK, Rancho Palos Verdes
A: While there is no precise definition of martial law, there is a basis for when “certain civil liberties can be suspended, such as the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, freedom of association and freedom of movement.” Furthermore, the arrest warrant for habeas corpus (the right to a trial before imprisonment) can be suspended. Curfews can be set. Conclusion: If civil government fails, martial law could well be declared, but there are checks and balances. For example, President Abraham Lincoln declared martial law during the Civil War. If Trump made such a declaration of unproven election fraud, it would undoubtedly be quickly challenged in court and rejected.
Q: Speakers on television mention “repeal the constitution”. Did that happen to a president?
A: The suspension clause of our constitution makes it clear that the privilege of the habeas corpus (as mentioned above, the right to a trial before imprisonment) cannot be suspended, except in cases of rebellion or breach of public security, which may actually occur. An example was the program during the George W. Bush administration that included wiretapping and torture without guarantee after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. In my view, invoking the suspension clause today because the country’s electoral system is allegedly rigged would be both inappropriate and unjustified.
What does the elected president do before his official inauguration? Just bid his time.
Ron Sokol is a Manhattan Beach attorney with over 35 years of experience. His column, which appears in print on Wednesdays, summarizes the law and should not be construed as legal advice. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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